Laura Spencer

Arts Reporter

Laura Spencer caught the radio bug more than a decade ago when she was asked to read a newscast on the air on her first day volunteering for KOOP, the community radio station in Austin, Texas. 

After moving home to Kansas City, she learned the fine art of editing reel-to-reel tape as an intern and graduate assistant with the nationally syndicated literary program New Letters on the Air. Since 2001, she's focused her efforts on writing and producing feature stories as KCUR's Arts Reporter. 

In 2011, Laura was one of 21 journalists selected for USC Annenberg’s seventh National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. She's received awards from the Associated Press, Kansas City Art Institute (Excellence in Visual Art and Education), Kansas City Association of Black Journalists, Missouri Broadcasters Association, Radio-Television News Directors Association (regional Edward R. Murrow Award) and Society for Professional Journalists. 

Ways to Connect

Courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's grassy lawn has hosted many things through the decades. Picnics, puppet shows, soccer games, wedding photos, badminton tournaments and tai chi, to name a few. 

Coming in late spring of 2018: Nine holes of mini-golf. 

Fernando Leon/NBC

Commercials, TV shows and movies can provide an economic boost — if they're shot in your city or state. 

In the fall of 2013, when Gone Girl filmed in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, it contributed nearly $8 million to the state's economy, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. The production marked the last for Missouri's film production tax credit, which expired in November 2013.

courtesy: Hispanic Economic Development Corporation

The U.S. Department of Commerce is awarding $1.6 million to the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation of Greater Kansas City, or HEDC.

The grant, announced on Thursday, will be used to renovate an industrial building near 27th and Southwest Boulevard, at 2720 Jarboe, and turn it into a small business incubator. 

Pedro Zamora, the non-profit’s executive director, says minorities are sometimes left out of Kansas City's entrepreneurship community. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Drive along U.S. Route 400 in western Kansas, and you’ll see hundreds of metal sculptures on tall poles, some as high as 20 feet. It’s the work of self-taught artist M.T. Liggett, who crafted signs and whirligigs out of scrap metal, tractor parts, and pipe. Whimsical - and politically provocative - art. 

Liggett died on August 21 at the age of 86. These outdoor sculptures are now in the care of four trustees, including one based in the Kansas City area. 

Lafayette County

A failed effort to build a new city-owned hospital is at the heart of financial problems in Lexington, Missouri. That's according to State Auditor Nicole Galloway, who presented findings of a citizen-requested audit on Thursday night at the Lexington City Hall. 

courtesy: Heart to Heart International

Puerto Rico is still digging out from Hurricane Maria.

The storm knocked out power, and fuel supplies are low. People are struggling to meet basic needs, such as access to food and water.

"We bring hope to people. We're going to help make those circumstances better," said Heart to Heart International chief operating officer Kim Carroll. "Puerto Rico will recover if we help it, and that's what we need to do." 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Art fairs don't seem like a place of fierce competition — but getting a booth at one can be.

More than 1,400 artists apply each year for the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City. Participants are selected by a jury, a group of curators, gallery owners and educators. This year, 240 artists got in, including about 40 from Kansas and Missouri..

Karen Almond / Dallas Opera

Young Friends of Art, a networking group for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, has been around for more than two decades. Then there are a few upstarts, like Kansas City Symphony's new Maestro KC, which "connects people to the music they love and the musicians who make it possible." 

courtesy: Kansas City Repertory Theatre

The musical Between the Lines has been in development for the past three years. This weekend marks its debut at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

The show is based on the bestselling book, co-written by Jodi Picoult and her (then teenage) daughter, Samantha van Leer. In the novel, a teenager, Delilah, gets a crush on a fairytale character, Prince Oliver — and the lines blur between fantasy and reality. 

Creative Commons-Flickr / Nikonian Novice

Startups create thousands of new jobs each year in the Kansas City area. That's according to a new report released Wednesday by KCSourceLink. A program of UMKC's Innovation Center, KCSourceLink provides a network for area entrepreneurs. 

"We're talking retail, we're talking restaurants, we're talking small manufacturers, we're talking tech companies," says special projects manager Kate Hodel. "All of those are important to our Kansas City metro area."

courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

This Monday, August 21, the moon will cover the sun in a rare total solar eclipse across a 70-mile path of the United States.

The eclipse starts at 11:40 a.m. and reaches totality around 1:06 p.m. in parts of Kansas and Missouri. 

Photo courtesy of RBerteig via Flickr

Get ready for a traffic jam. 

Across the United States, millions of people plan to travel the highways and byways to view the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. The moon will block the sun along a narrow band through 14 states — including Kansas and Missouri. The eclipse begins around 11:40 a.m., with totality just after 1 p.m.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

It's been a year since the Kansas City Council approved $7 million in funding for projects in the 18th and Vine district, such as stabilizing historic buildings and adding new streetscaping. On Wednesday, city officials provided a progress report. 

Hickok Cole Architects

What do artists in the Kansas City metropolitan area want when it comes to space? What are the top creative space priorities? 

To find out, Artspace, a nonprofit real estate developer, conducted a regional arts market study from October 2016 to January 2017. A total of 515 artists and 101 arts organizations or creative businesses responded to the online survey. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The future of the Kansas City International Airport has been talked about for years — in public hearings and forums, as well as meetings of the airport terminal advisory group, airport committee, and the Kansas City Council.

Thursday could mark a crucial turning point for what's expected to be a $1 billion project. 

Jeremy Enlow / Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition has been described as the Olympics for pianists. It's a grueling process to even make the cut. 

This year, nearly 300 pianists applied, 146 were selected for live screening auditions, and 30 were invited to Fort Worth, Texas, in May. And then the competition gets underway: 17 days, with four elimination rounds, and millions of people watching around the world

Courtesy Mark Montgomery

For three decades, Kansas City singer/songwriter Mark Montgomery has played guitar, bass, and harmonica in blues and jazz bands — and he's also a beekeeper

Montgomery spoke with Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix about his latest album, the first on his own Love Honey label, called "Difficult Man."

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

The American Jazz Museum still has about $150,000 in outstanding vendor bills. That’s despite catching up on payments to the musicians who played at the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend.

courtesy Kansas City Zoo

Misting fans, chilled pools, ice treats and air conditioning. It's what a lot of people turn to in the summer in Kansas City — and so do the caretakers of the animals at the Kansas City Zoo.  

During the summer months, many of the animals are more active in the mornings when it's cooler. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

After months of stops and starts, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art now has the go ahead for the first phase of its master plan. On Thursday, the Kansas City City Council approved a zoning change for the museum's 29-acre property. 

Outdoor sculptures will take the place of the tennis courts of the former Rockhill Tennis Club along Rockhill Road. The clubhouse will be available for sale as a residence. The museum will expand offices, as needed, to the four historic houses it owns along 45th Street. 

John Abbott / Smoke Sessions Records

For jazz saxophonist Bobby Watson, writing songs is easier than it used to be. 

"Because I know who I am, and I accept who I am," Watson told Up to Date host Steve Kraske. "So when I'm writing a song, I'm not really trying to get outside of who I am."

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Financial woes at the American Jazz Museum aren't sitting well with city and state officials. 

"I'm concerned, like a lot of other people, about what's going on," says Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. "I don't think we ought to ignore this, ignore the problems, or dismiss them lightly."

Brian Collins

Back in William Shakespeare's day, outdoor theaters like the Globe in London could accommodate about 3,000 people. More than 400 years later in Kansas City, crowds in June and July hauled blankets and lawn chairs to pack into Southmoreland Park for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival's production of Hamlet

CJ Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Update: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include a city funding update. 

After experiencing "a cash flow issue" following the inaugural Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend, officials with the American Jazz Museum say all performers have been paid — after some musicians complained on social media earlier this week.

A. Hagerman Photography

Blues musician Patrick Recob has played with lots of touring bands, and recorded with some of them, over the last 25 years. And, for nearly a decade, he was the bassist for Lee McBee and The Confessors. 

Last month marked the release of Recob's debut solo album. Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix talked to Recob about the new release called Perpetual Luau

CHUCK HADDIX: "Well, how did the luau theme come in?"

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Brian Collins / Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

So what's it like going from a blockbuster hit like Netflix's House of Cards to returning to your hometown to perform outdoors in a Shakespeare play?

That was Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann's question for actor Nathan Darrow on the day Hamlet opened in Southmoreland Park, presented by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

The 2.2 mile Kansas City Streetcar route from Union Station to the River Market opened just over a year ago. To date, the line has completed just over 2 million trips with an average of 5,860 riders a day in 2016. 

And now they're looking into expansion options to the south — and the north.

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